United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, U.S.D.C. J.
David Carson (“Petitioner”), a Pennsylvania state
prisoner, filed a pro se petition for a writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in
which he asserted numerous constitutional claims. [ECF 1].
Thereafter, Petitioner obtained counsel, [ECF 2], who filed a
memorandum of law in support of Petitioner's
habeas petition and expanded on the alleged
constitutional violations, arguing that (1) the trial court
improperly denied Petitioner's motion to suppress
evidence; (2) the evidence of record was insufficient to
convict Petitioner; (3) trial counsel was ineffective for
failing to object to the trial court's improper reliance
upon the “demeanor” of the prosecution witness;
(4) Petitioner's right to a speedy trial was violated;
and (5) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to assert
that Petitioner's speedy trial right. [ECF 14].
accordance with 28 U.S.C § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule
72.1.IV(c), the petition for a writ of habeas corpus
was randomly referred to United States Magistrate Judge
Timothy R. Rice (the “Magistrate Judge”) for a
Report and Recommendation (“R&R”).
[ECF 5]. On April 25, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued an
R&R, which recommended that the habeas petition
be denied. [ECF 25]. Petitioner filed objections to the
R&R, [ECF 28], and Respondents filed a reply to the
objections. [ECF 30]. This matter is ripe for a de
novo review and determination of the objections posed.
thorough and independent de novo review of the state
court record and court filings, for the reasons set forth,
Petitioner's objections are overruled, the R&R is
approved and adopted, the petition for a writ of habeas
corpus is denied; and this Court finds no probable cause
to issue a certificate of appealability.
December 17, 2003, Petitioner was found guilty in a bench
trial of murder in the second degree, robbery, criminal
conspiracy, and possession of an instrument of a crime and
was, subsequently, sentenced to life imprisonment.
Commonwealth v. Carson, 2014 WL 10888317, at *1 (Pa.
Super. Ct. Aug. 27, 2014). The facts underlying
Petitioner's conviction, as summarized by the
Pennsylvania Superior Court, were considered by the
Magistrate Judge and are as follow:
[O]n July 15, 1998, [Petitioner] conspired with Julius
Edwards to rob 18 [-]year-old [Romie] Webb. Several witnesses
observed Edwards in possession of an AK47 assault rifle
earlier that day. Edwards took the weapon to
[Petitioner's] residence in the 900 block of Price Street
in Philadelphia sometime in the afternoon. He and
[Petitioner] then sat on the porch together for most of the
afternoon and evening.
Webb lived on the 800 block of Price Street and was selling
drugs on the same corner where [Petitioner] used to sell
drugs before getting locked up. People in the area knew that
Webb kept the crack cocaine he sold in a prescription pill
bottle[, ] which he stashed under the bumper of a parked car.
At approximately :25 p.m., [Petitioner] and Edwards went
. . . to where Webb was selling drugs. Edwards, wearing a
striped shirt and armed with the AK47, ordered Webb to give
him money. Webb responded that he had no money on him, and
handed him the pill bottle containing the drugs. As Edwards
was about to leave, [Petitioner] came around the corner and
shot Webb four times in the back. Webb died later that night
from gunshot wounds.
After shooting Webb, [Petitioner] ran back into an alley
where he took off the blue Nautica sweatshirt he was wearing
and spoke briefly with his brother, Aaron Carson.
[Petitioner] then returned to the corner and leaned over
Webb, saying that he was going to be all right. When police
arrived, [Petitioner] was instructed to move away.
Approximately thirty minutes after the shooting, [Petitioner]
and Edwards were back on [Petitioner's] porch. The blue
Nautica sweatshirt was on the ground next to
[Petitioner's] feet, the victim's pill bottle was in
[Petitioner's] pants pocket and the AK47 that Edwards was
carrying was leaning against the rear of an adjoining
Id. The facts adduced at trial stemmed from the
testimony of several eye witness to the shooting, one of whom
identified Petitioner as the shooter during Julius
Edwards' trial in 1999, but who later testified during
Petitioner's 2003 trial that she never actually saw the
shooter's face. (R&R at 3). Another witness also
identified Petitioner, during Julius Edwards' trial, as
being with Mr. Edwards at the shooting, but later said at
Petitioner's trial that she was unsure if it was
Petitioner. (Id. at 4).
procedural history of this matter is set forth in the
R&R, and will only be repeated when relevant to address
Petitioner's objections. Of note, prior to trial,
Petitioner filed a motion to suppress the evidence discovered
by the police at the time of his arrest, primarily the
victim's pill bottle found in Petitioner's pocket.
The trial court conducted a two-day evidentiary hearing, and
denied Petitioner's motion to suppress. A bench trial was
held, and following his conviction, Petitioner filed a motion
for extraordinary relief and argued that the verdict was
contrary to the physical evidence, including the time records
from his ankle monitor, which included evidence that showed
that he was confined at home at the time of the crime due to
his house arrest. The trial court also conducted a hearing on
this issue and, on January 11, 2005, denied Petitioner's
motion and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Id.
Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence. On May 7,
2007, the conviction and sentence were affirmed by the
Superior Court. On December 5, 2007, the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court denied review.
November 3, 2008, Petitioner filed a counseled PCRA petition.
The PCRA Court conducted an evidentiary hearing, and on March
15, 2013, Petitioner's PCRA petition was denied.
Petitioner appealed seeking review of, inter alia,
his speedy trial and sufficiency of the evidence claims. On
August 27, 2014, the Superior Court affirmed the PCRA
Court's decision, and on February 19, 2015, the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied review. Plaintiff,
proceeding pro se, timely filed this habeas
petition on June 10, 2015.
objections to an R&R are filed, the court must conduct a
de novo review of the contested portions of the
R&R, see Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106
n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(C)),
provided the objections are both timely and specific.
Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In
conducting its de novo review, a court may accept,
reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings
or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C.
§636(b)(1). Although the review is de novo, the
statute permits the court to rely on the recommendations of
the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper.
United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76
(1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7.
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
(“AEDPA”) amended the standards for reviewing
state court judgments raised in federal habeas
corpus petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 195 (3d Cir. 2000).
AEDPA increased the deference federal courts must give to the
factual findings and legal determinations of the state
courts. Id. at 196. Thus, in accordance with §
2254(d), a habeas corpus petition may only be
granted if the state court's adjudication of the claim:
“(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United
States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d).
order to seek federal habeas relief, however, a
petitioner must first exhaust the remedies available in state
court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1) (“An
application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person
in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall
not be granted unless it appears that - (A) the applicant has
exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State .
. .”). To meet this exhaustion requirement, a
petitioner must “fairly present his claim in each
appropriate state court . . . thereby alerting that court to
the federal nature of the claim.” Baldwin v.
Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004). In order for a claim to
be exhausted, “‘[b]oth the legal theory and facts
underpinning the federal claim must have been presented to
the state courts, and the same method of legal analysis must
be available to the state court as will be employed in the
federal court.'” Tome v. Stickman, 167
Fed.Appx. 320, 322-23 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Evans v.
Court of Common Pleas, De. County, Pa., 959 F.2d 1227,
1231 (3d Cir. 1992)). A state prisoner must “fairly
present” his federal claims to the state courts before
seeking federal habeas relief by invoking “one
complete round of the State's established appellate
review process.” O'Sullivan v. Boerckel,
526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). In Pennsylvania, one complete round
includes presenting the federal claim through the Superior
Court on direct or collateral review. See Lambert v.
Blackwell, 387 F.3d 210, 233-34 (3d Cir. 2004). The
habeas petitioner bears the burden of proving
exhaustion of all state remedies. Boyd v. Waymart,
579 F.3d 330, 367 (3d Cir. 2009).
state court has refused or would refuse to review a claim
based on a state procedural rule that is independent of the
federal question and adequate to support the judgment, the
court may deny that claim as procedurally defaulted.
Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 729, 731-32
(1991); Lark v. Sec't Pa. Dept. of Corrections,
645 F.3d 596, 611 (3d Cir. 2011); Johnson v.
Pinchak, 392 F.3d 551, 556 (3d Cir. 2004). A federal
court may consider the merits of a procedurally defaulted
claim only if “the petitioner establishes ‘cause
and prejudice' or a ‘fundamental miscarriage of
justice' to excuse the default.” Holloway v.
Horn, 355 F.3d 707, 715 n.3 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting
Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750).
“cause, ” the petitioner “must demonstrate
some objective factor external to the defense that prevented
compliance with the state's procedural
requirements.” Id.; see also Murray v.
Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986). Examples of suitable
“cause” include a showing that: (1) the factual
or legal basis for a claim was not reasonably available; (2)
some interference by state officials made compliance with the
state procedural rule impracticable; or (3) the procedural
default was the result of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Id. at 488. To demonstrate “prejudice, ”
a petitioner must show ‘“not merely that the
errors at . . . trial created a possibility of
prejudice, but that they worked to his actual and
substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with
error of constitutional dimensions.'”
Murray, 477 U.S. at 494 (quoting United States
v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 170 (1982)).
Coleman, 501 U.S. 722, the United States Supreme
Court held that ineffective assistance of state
post-conviction counsel cannot satisfy the
“cause” requisite for overcoming a procedural
default because there is no federal constitutional right to
counsel on post-conviction review. Id. at 750-54.
However, in Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), the
Supreme Court carved out a “narrow” and
“limited” exception to the rule in
Coleman, and held that where state law requires
claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel to be
raised for the first time in a collateral proceeding, a
federal habeas petitioner may be able to establish
“cause” sufficient to overcome a procedural
default of a “substantial” claim of trial
counsel's ineffectiveness if the collateral appeal
counsel was also ineffective. Martinez, 566 U.S. at
Martinez, the Supreme Court held that counsel's
failure on collateral review to raise a claim of ineffective
assistance of trial counsel may constitute
“cause” to excuse a procedural default of the
trial counsel ineffectiveness claim if: (1) collateral review
counsel's failure itself met the standard for ineffective
assistance of counsel under Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984); and (2) the underlying
ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim is a
“substantial one, which is to say that the prisoner
must demonstrate that the claim has some merit.”
Martinez, 566 U.S. at 14. Noting that the
Martinez Court compared this standard to that
required to issue certificates of appealability, the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit interpreted the
requisite inquiry as a “threshold inquiry” that
“‘does not ...